OGDEN — Although it has been placed on the back burner for several months, city officials say the Ogden streetcar project is still alive.
The last time the project was given any meaningful public discussion was in January 2012 when the city council held a fact-finding work session to discuss the viability of a streetcar that would link Ogden’s downtown with Weber State University.
The council hired consultant GB Arrington, who works for PB PlaceMaking Inc., based in Portland, Ore., to determine the likelihood of the city securing federal funds for the project and what economic impact the streetcar would have.
While Arrington’s report showed that a streetcar has sufficient merit to compete against other projects in the federal process and would likely have a positive impact on the local economy, progress has stalled.
But Mark Johnson, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the project has not been forgotten.
“By no means is the project dead,” he said. “We’re still working on it, but there are some hurdles that we have to get through.”
Despite Arrington’s report, Johnson said funding remains the biggest hurdle.
The estimated price tage for the streetcar would be $160 million.
“We still have to weigh exactly what we need with what we can afford,” he said.
Johnson said the city is also considering other, less-expensive options like Bus Rapid Transit to link the university and Ogden. Currently, the Utah Transit Authority provides basic bus service that begins at the downtown Intermodal Transit Hub and runs along 25th Street to Harrison Boulevard then to Weber State.
Yet another hurdle is choosing a route that everyone can agree on.
The council wants the streetcar to run from the Intermodal Hub on Wall Avenue up 23rd Street to Washington Boulevard, along Washington to 25th Street, up 25th to Harrison Boulevard and on to Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital.
The council maintains that route would foster development and best serve residents.
But a study spearheaded by UTA indicates the preferred route is from the Intermodal Hub along 23rd Street, to Washington Boulevard, along Washington to 36th Street, up 36th Street to Harrison Boulevard and then to WSU.
UTA spokesman Chad Saley said the agency has concluded its work on the study, and it’s now up to Ogden to decide how to move forward.
“Any updates on the project would have to be directed to the city,” he said.
The Utah Department of Transportation, who would have to be involved in the project because it includes two major state roads (Harrison and Washington boulevards), says the same.
UDOT Region One Director Kris Peterson said a streetcar would have an enormous impact on vehicle traffic on the two state-owned roads, but without a firm plan in place for the project to proceed, it’s nearly impossible to tell what that would be.
“It’s kind of in Ogden’s court right now,” Peterson said. “Once they make a decision, we’ll have to look at whatever the chosen route is and then look at whatever limitations there may be. But until we find out exactly what the route is, it’s hard to say (what the impacts would be).”